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Thursday, 13 August 2009

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Hm, talking about Silhouettes. Gives me Vertigo to look at the first silhouette. It certainly is without a Shadow of a Doubt a man who can hit The Birds. I'm Spellbound by the second image, I Confess. Must have been taken through the Rear Window. Is that a Torn Curtain to his right? Well, that's enough, I really don't want to Sabotage your very Rich and Strange silhouette piece, Mike.

A portrait is no less powerful from behind or in silhouette as long as the essence of the subject comes through.

Are you sure Tiger is facing the other way instead of facing the camera? Since it's a silhouette, unless the background says otherwise he could be facing either way, and most viewers who aren't golfers wouldn't be sure. (Cranking up the curves still didn't make it a slam-dunk either, to mix sports metaphors.)

The golf photo is beautiful, but it doesn't instantly say "photographed from behind" the way the Casals photo does. Not to my eye, anyway...

I'm not quite sure that a photograph of a person from behind can ever be a 'proper' portrait, for it seems to me that too much is lost if the human viewer can not see the subject's human face. Our primate brain's innate face recognition circuitry imputes enormous amounts of emotional meaning to a face, so much so that I must pose the above question.

The from-the-rear (FTR?) portrait, it seems to me, is always more of an abstract statement about the human nature of a person engaged in a certain activity than it is of the individual himself.

The photo of the golfer becomes an abstract of the golfer's innate grace, the image of the cellist illustrates a musician's solitary discipline. But without the face, the images would be as strong regardless of the identity of the individual subject.

Of the two, I prefer the Karsh photo. Certainly it is the more studied, and we can assume the photographer had more time to think it through. I love the wink of window light top right balancing the light on Casal's head. And of course the line of the wall at the right gets the cello into the picture even though the actual instrument is largely hidden by the cellist's body. I guess such deliberate composition is a matter of taste. I like it. The Tiger Woods photo is pretty, though.

Bill Poole

Has anyone ever compiled a book or mounted a show of silhouette portraits and behind the back portraits. It would be interesting.

PS: I'm been missing in action for quite some time because I got very caught up and involved in the Great Obama Scare of 2008. I spent most of my time reading political commentary and campaigning for Barack in PA and thought that once the election was over, I'd get back to normal. Yea right! It wasn't until this spring that I began to catch up on TOP.

Great work as always. Thank you for being out there.

As an aside, for those who may be in the neighbourhood, Ottawa is celebrating Karsh with the Karsh festival until Sept. 13, 2009.

Plenty of events all over the city and they are mostly empty... ;(

"Are you sure Tiger is facing the other way instead of facing the camera?"

Yes, because he's a rightie. Unless the picture is flipped, which I believe is verboten in sports photography.

Also, it's highly unlikely that Tiger would tolerate a photographer standing directly in front of him as he strikes the ball, even when he's practicing. He's known to have a pretty low tolerance for photographers.

Mike

The Casals photograph is clearly a portrait. Would the silhouette of an unknown golfer be considered a portrait?
What recognizable attributes associated with a subject are necessary for an image to be considered a portrait? Does the portrait status of a silhouette depend upon personal knowledge of the individual? Does it depend on the relationship between the viewer and the subject? Just asking.

Strange observations:
The Casals photograph works better as a primal image, (and if one doesn't know anythng about Casals).
It also looks better as a 4x5 (on my computer screen) than the 16x20 commonly shown.

What recognizable attributes associated with a subject are necessary for an image to be considered a portrait?

The essential attributes.

Does the portrait status of a silhouette depend upon personal knowledge of the individual?

I don't think so. Recognising the silhouetted figure, however, does.

Does it depend on the relationship between the viewer and the subject?

See previous answer.

Just asking.

Just saying. :-)

Practice makes perfect.

While Tiger is my second favorite golfer of all time and I almost always root for him, it's nice to see some other players giving him a run these days.

Great environmental portraits.

Speaking of name mix ups - and it played out here in TOP comments a few months ago ...

Mike recommended a book by Brooklyn, N.Y. photographer Amadou Diallo, to which a commenter mentioned (and I thought about) another Amadou Diallo, an Bronx man gunned down by NYC Police in 1999. I'm guessing photographer Diallo has to put up with a lot of questions about victim Diallo.

Carl

Hi Mike,

All I can say is Hazeltine is 10 miles from my house and I passed on tickets. Oh, what could have been!

Chris

Hmmmm.. It looks like it's just me....

I looove the Tiger Woods Photo. I see so much elegance, grace and power in that split second. It stopped me in my tracks when I saw it and I can feel myself exploring the frame. For me it's captured a "decisive moment". I would just love to have a ciba print of this on my wall.

It also probably helps that the sunset is one of my favourite colours..

Gordon

My favorite "from the back" photograph (though technically not a portrait) is Nat Fein's Pultizer-Prize winning image "The Babe Bows Out".
http://www.vintagephotos.com/Nat%20Fein%20Babe%20Bows%20Out%20Page.htm

Herman Leonard's photo of Frank Sinatra, taken in Monte Carlo in 1958.
http://www.edelmangallery.com/leonard36.htm

Bill Rogers

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